Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

the Deck 2013, part 3

With the a major section of the deck completed and having the railed section finished, it’s now on to the expansion of the screened in porch.  I wanted to do something a bit different with this part of the project.  I had first planned to just extend the roof line of the existing porch with a “roof” made of screen rather than the standard shingles most often used in Midwestern porch construction,  But as I’ve written in the past, sometimes ideas just seem to present themselves.  And as a result of having dinner under a restaurant’s pergola one evening, I decided that a pergola roof would look much nicer, be easier to build even being a bit more expensive.

We started with the floor joists.  In the picture below note that the joists are doubled up and have upside down joist hangers attaching them to the ledger board (on the left).  Due to the fact that my support beam in this section was just 44 inches from the ledger board, standard building code would have limited my  cantilever past the support beam to just 11 inches.   So I retained a certified professional engineer to design the construction method in this area.  The upside down hangers are designed to prevent up lift forces from the longer cantilever.


Before the center porch roof supports on the outside wall can be removed, the roof structure would need to be re-enforced.  I did this by “simply” installing additional header supports.  Added were two 2×6’s above the existing ones and an additional 2×12 outboard of the existing headers.  In the picture below, you can see the installed 2×12 below the 2×8 cedar board.

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With the decking installed and roof re-enforced, it was time to start the porch framing expansion.  I am using the same cedar posts that were used in the existing porch.  I planned for only the corner posts to be attached to the main deck construction.  I did this by cutting a hole in the deck to match the size of a section cut from the bottom of the post.  Once inserted into this pocket the bottom of the post would be screwed to the main deck structure.

photo66Each of the two corners were installed in this manner and then the outside posts were tied back to the porch with horizontal beams.  The top beams were attached to the vertical posts using a simple but yet strong lap joint.  They were screwed together using 6 inch construction screws using impact driver drill.

photo 1 Once the outside posts and top beams were installed, I simply filled in the other vertical posts screwing them to the top beam and bottom deck.  The horizontal members are 2×4.  All of this section is constructed from rough cedar which will be later stained.  The next step was to install the pergola roofing members with pre cut ends and installed to the top beams with 3 inch deck screws.

photo 81At this point I was ready to install the screens using the tried and true method of staples to be later covered by 1×4 batten boards.

inside view of the bigger porch space.

photo 51

View from the outside of the finished expansion (other than the planned wrapping of the lower section of the deck in matching cedar)

photo 883In the end, the porch expansion turned out better than I expected.  With the completely different roof lines, I decided rather than paint the cedar gray to match the existing porch, I would stain it to give this new area its own character and style.


the Fireplace Remodel, part 3

I’ve had the new stone fire place finished  for some time now and even the re-claimed barn wood mantel is installed.  We’ve spent some time looking at stone/granite for the ground level hearth but nothing has been decided upon.

Here are some progression pictures of the stone installation.

This is the start of the stone install.  On the bottom I setup a temporary wooden support shelve which is supported in the center with three wooden wedges.  This provided me a nice even surface and it served as spacer between the floor and the stone where the future hearth stone will be set.  This support will be removed once the mortar cures.

ImageThe next picture is the installed stone up to and around the mounting cleat that will hold the barn wood mantel.  Once again you can see a temporary wooden support above the fireplace insert.


Further up the wall….and if you look real close at the cleat (sometimes called a French Cleat), I used some small spacer wedges to push up the cleat top in order to use the top of the cleat as a support for the next row of stone.  Between the cleat and the stone I placed some wax paper to prevent the two from sticking together.


And now we have all the stone installed, along with the barn wood mantel.  The last row of stone at the top required about 1/3 of the top to be cut off with the tile saw.  It turned out pretty even and looks nice.


The most important step in a nice clean installation is to take the time and lay out the stone on the ground before their installed.  Don’t grab them at random from the box and mortar directly to the wall.  Take the time to do a proper layout.  I can’t tell you how many times I rearranged the stones when they were laid out on the floor.   Making sure the color tone, stone size and texture were evenly spaced.  That time was well spent when you see the results.

I used Eldorado Stone – Mountain Ledge Panels

Once the hearth stone is installed.  I’ll update this post.

the Fireplace Remodel, part 2

In the middle of the project, we decided to remove the step hearth in front on the fireplace and place the new hearth near or at the floor level, just peeking out above the carpet.  This meant a little demo in removing the OSB top and 2×10 framing.  It was actually pretty difficult to remove due to the carpenter being a little to overzealous with the nail gun.  But I did get the step torn out (without injury) and all the hidden saw dust vacuumed.  Lucky I had some left over Sheetrock I would need to patch the two openings previously hidden by the step,  you can see those below where the pink insulation is viable.


I had already covered most of the wall with black roofer felt which is used as a moisture barrier.  The barrier serves a few purposes.  One, to protect the drywall from the moisture in the mortar.  Two, to keep the moisture in the mortar, which slows the curing process, thereby resulting in a stronger finished material.  And lastly, it acts as a means to prevent cracking if there is movement between the stone and the wall due to any temperature and humidity changes within the house.

The next step is to cover the entire wall with metal lath.  I used 2.5lb lath as provided by our stone supplier.   This was a challenging process.  The lath can have a mind of its own and certainly has sharp edges, so be sure to wear leather gloves when handling this material.  Metal snips were used to cut it to size and lath screws were used to attach the lath to the wall studs.  Attach screws every 16 inches on the horizontal plane and every 6 inches on the vertical.  The lath itself should overlap 1 to 2 inches on the horizontal seams and 3 to 4 inches on the vertical.  It took about 3 hours due to the slow process on the trimming to size but it looks pretty good.  Note: there is a correct side of the lath to use away from the wall.  It’s the side where the bottom of the  little diamond shape openings form a little outward cup (presumably to help hold the scratch coat mortar.)


Applying the scratch coat mortar is skill that starts out poor, but you’ll quickly figure out what you’re doing and then the process will speed up.  The second half of the wall took about half the time as the first.  Mix the mortar following the manufacture instructions (I used a 5 gallon bucket and paddle mixer attached to a heavy-duty 1/2 inch drill), to a consistency of creamy peanut butter and use a flat trowel to apply.  Loading the trowel in the center only helps prevent mortar from dripping out as you push up and around and force the mortar into the lath, covering it to at least a 1/2 inch depth.  Take your time and expect mortar to drip out onto the floor.

IMG_1195Once the mortar has set up a bit (possibly 30 to 60 minutes of drying) use the notched side of a trowel to scratch groves into the mortar.   These little groves will increase the bonding between the stone mortar and the wall mortar/lath.


I plan to wait 48 hours (due to a busy schedule) and then we’ll have a go at installing the actual stone veneer.  Looking forward to that!

the Fireplace Remodel, part 3….

the Fireplace Remodel, part 1

It is time to get on with the fire-place remodel, even right smack in the middle of the Deck 2013 project.  I figure now that the summer heat and humidity is in full swing, I can take a break from the outdoor deck project and get on with a nice indoor project and enjoy some A/C.  We are tearing out the old ceramic tile fireplace tiles and replacing them with Eldorado Stone Mountain Ledge Panels ( Silverton.) from top to bottom.

Here we have the existing fireplace after removal of the ceramic tile.  The tile was fairly easy to remove with a hammer and a cold chisel. Most of the tiles popped up without cracking.

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It was now on to the removal of the very dated white wooden mantel.  I found the best way to remove this was to first remove the tiny top and bottom trim pieces.  With these gone I could get the crow bar behind the piece of 2×6 lumber the mantel was constructed around.  I few hammer smacks, along with some prying of the crow bar and the entire mantel came off in once piece; in nice enough condition to re-use if necessary.

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With the mantel and tile removed, it was on to the tile mastic glue covering the black metal surrounding the fireplace opening.  I considered the purchase of some type of chemical stripper but in the end settled on an ordinary heat gun.  With a just a few second of directed heat, the glue was somewhat easily scrapped off the metal.  A quick light sanding to remove the remaining glue residue and it was ready to paint (make sure you use paint designed for high heat applications).  Below is the finished opening.  You can still see the glue on the bottom of the fireplace which should be covered by the new stone or easily removed later if necessary.

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On to part 2…

the Tomato Box

We had a couple of extra tomato potted plants this year.  With nowhere specific to put the pots, they were just sitting on the deck.  That is until a slight wind came along and then they were sitting on their side, dirt everywhere and more importantly, damaged tomatoes.

We’ll I had some left over pieces of Trex decking that I had used on my Deck 2010 project.   I thought that material would make a nice, simple holder to keep the plants from toppling over.  And match the deck to boot!

Plants without a home!

Plants without a home!



After taking a few measurements of the two pots, spaced far enough apart to allow for growth and sunlight,  I cut two 36 inch and four 10 inch pieces of the scrap decking.  The four short boards were used to create a separate pot “box” at each end.

IMG_1145I drilled pilot holes at each of the screw locations.  Pilot holes are not required when setting screws in Trex but it does make the driving of the decking screws much easier.  Top and bottom holes at each connection point.   And I again used my Makita impact driver to set the screws.  The square drive screws were also left over from the Trex deck project.  So after only about 20 minutes worth of effort and $0, we have a nice boxed stand to keep the pots from blowing over.


the Deck 2013, part 2

The local code inspector was here yesterday.  I was outside working near the deck project all morning, went inside for 20 minutes and the inspector was here and gone when I returned to the back yard.  That was fast!  I only know of his visit after seeing a little yellow “approved” sticker I was to attach to my building permit.  To bad I missed him, I had some code specific questions to ask that would need to wait until the code department’s help line was open the next morning.  For a $124 fee to inspect the footers and ledger, I had hoped that he’d at least knock on the door to let us know he was here.


Now that the first two inspections were out of the way, it was time to pour some concrete and then start the actual deck framing.  Due to me building this thing solo, some of my construction steps are a bit out of order from the normal process; if you had a crew working together.

For the concrete, I rented an electric mixer.  I recommend you get the type that looks like it’s a wheelbarrow.  That way you can roll the mixer right to your hole, mix the concrete and pour directly into the form.  I used the standard yellow sonotube concrete tubes but only for the top 18 inches, this was to have a nice round post above grade.

You can see here the 12 inch tube and the possibly 14 hole below the tube.

You can see here the 12 inch concrete tube and the possibly 14 hole below the tube.


All six poured and curing

After a few days of curing, it was on to the framing: I first starting with joists attached to the existing porch.   It was a bit of a chore to attached these level as the existing porch deck had an arch on one side and dipped about one inch out of level on the other side.  You can see the first board attached to the existing porch below.


The next step in the process was to build the first two vertical posts and supporting cross beam.  What you see in the picture above are two 4×6 posts notched on top to hold the 2×10 cross beam.  (Once more joints are installed, a second 2×10 will be laminated to the first.)  Notching the top of the posts is a far superior method to attached the beam in place of just bolting the beam to the vertical post.  This method results in the deck weight being supported by the post itself rather than just the bolt.

In the picture below you can now see the remaining posts installed, more joists and the now doubled up 2×10 laminated support beams.  The gray posts you see are the old deck support posts that I’ve left in place.  They may be used in construction of a below deck storage room (yet another project).  Later on, the top of each post will get two 1/2 bolts to provide a mechanical connection between each beam and post.


Once all the joists are installed, I put in cross bracing to make the deck extra stiff.  You don’t always see this in deck construction, but it’s any easy step to make a deck that much better.


Next is the decking.  Its a pretty simple process.  The key is to keep the gaps between the boards equal.  Easy enough to just use a nail as a spacer from one board to the next.   To install the deck, I highly recommend  using screws over nails.  And it’s best to use an impact driver over a regular drill.  I purchased a Makita driver a few years ago and its been a great purchase.  (this thing even drove in the 1/2 inch lag bolts supporting the ledger board)


the Nephew drops by to help install some boards.

Now ready for the railing.  The railing was a pretty basic design.  The local code requires that none of the railing gaps can be larger than 4 inches.  There would be six 4×4 support posts bolted to the deck’s rim joist (the outer band).  The bottom and top horizontal supports would be 2×4’s.  These are used to support the 2×2 balusters.  Note that the at the end of each horizontal support, there is a baluster attached directly to the post.   This is a key feature for two reasons.  It provides each railing section extra support in it’s attachment to the post and provides a better visual flow from once section to the next in keeping the baluster gaps consistent.
photo 4


The corner was a bit of a challenge to figure out how I wanted it to look, but I like how it turned out.

photo 31


In the end, I really like the way the railing turned out.  Nice and simple design, strong and flows really well from once section to the next.  With the main structure completed it’s on to the screened in porch expansion.  That we’ll find in the Deck 2013, part 3

the Deck 2013, part 1

After 18 years of Indiana weather, the original deck on my home was showing its age.  Boards were cracking, splitting and the safety railing was a bit too loose for comfort.  Using what I had learned during the Deck 2010 project, I knew this would be a fun project to replace and expand and would certainly improve our outdoor living space.

The 18 year old weather deck had seen better days...

The 18 year old, well weathered deck had seen better days…

I didn't bother to research what the building codes were 18 years ago, but it appears as of the old ledger board was installed inconsistent with current codes

I didn’t bother to research what the building codes were 18 years ago, but it appears as the old ledger board was installed inconsistent with current codes

The ledger board is a critical component of any deck.  According to our local building inspectors and as due to the number of failed final inspections in our area, the ledger board is required to have it’s own inspection before the deck framing can begin.

The ledger board must be attached directly to the home structure and is not allowed to be attached though the home’s exterior siding.

Older ledger board removed and wood siding cut away

Older ledger board removed and wood siding cut away

Styrofoam insulation has been removed.  Plywood inserts will be cut to fill gaps left from the Styrofoam removal.

Styrofoam insulation has been removed. Plywood inserts will be cut to fill gaps left from the Styrofoam removal.

Note in the picture above, far right side, that once the Styrofoam material was removed I discovered that a small section of the rim joist had been cut away to make room for an interior AC vent.  Luckily none of the prior deck’s lag bolts were installed in that area.  Had they been, there would have been limited or no structure material for the bolts to grab onto; thereby severally weakening the deck structure.

Once patched, I installed the silver drip channel on the bottom, a rubberized self sticking waterproofing membrane, and the brown drip channel on top.  The brown drip channel runs about 4 inches up behind the siding and extends out over the 2×8 ledger board.

This three part waterproofing system practically guarantees no water will get behind the ledger board.

Final ledger board as passed by the code inspectors.

Final ledger board as passed by the code inspectors.

The gap you see between the top of the ledger board and bottom of the siding is where the 5/4 decking material will slide into.

Our local code enforcement department  requires (for decks over 30 inches) a ledger board inspection, a footer inspection before the concrete pour and a final overall inspection.  With the ledger board finished and ready, it was time to move on to the footers.  In central Indiana the required depth of the footer to get below the frost line is 36 inches.  I had 6 holes to drill so I rented a two person gas powered post hole digger.  This was my first time using a portable digger as I had used the auger on the back of a tractor for my Deck 2010 project.  I enlisted the help of a friend who was also new to the process.  We were having some problems getting the auger to say running after starting and it actually took us 15 minutes to figure out that the guy at Home Depot had turned the gas valve off before the rental.   Once the gas was turned back on the engine ran without issues.  The auger worked quite well through the first 24 inches of loose top soil, but once it hit the hard Indiana clay it got much tougher.  You really had to guide the auger while applying your full body weight against the torque of the handles.  Several times the auger bit hit a rock or tree root and the handles could almost knock you down if you weren’t prepared.   It was hard work but we did get the holes drilled in a few hours.  Lesson learned: I wanted 12 inch holes so I rented a 12 inch auger bit.  Sounds reasonable, right?  However there is so much vibration, and back and forth motion while using the auger that you actually end up with a hole closer to 13 or 14 inches.   Not a big deal other than significantly increasing your concrete requirements.  In my case that was an extra ten 60 lbs bags, luckily they were on sale for $1.99.

photo 3

now on to the Deck 2013, part 2